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2018 News

Bucks County Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans’ Court Finishes Successful Term as President of Statewide Association

July 30, 2018

A message from the Bucks County Register of Wills
Contact Donald Petrille at 215-348-6265

Bucks County Clerk of the Orphans’ Court Register of Wills, Don Petrille, recently completed a term as President of the Registers of Wills and Clerks of the Orphans’ Court Association of Pennsylvania.

Don Petrille receives gavel in July, 2018 from Sue Kauwell, Clerk of Orphans’ Court of Montour County.Over the past year, Petrille worked with officeholders from across Pennsylvania on initiatives concerning privacy of court information, inheritance tax and the implantation of a new statewide computer system which monitors the status of guardianships of incapacitated persons.

“During the last year, the Courts imposed the most significant change on how Pennsylvania attorneys file court documents in over two generations,” Petrille noted, referring to the implementation of the Supreme Court’s Public Access Policy.  “The Public Access Policy required attorneys to refer to potentially confidential information by reference only, which created a need for new forms, new dockets and new procedures in all Orphans’ Court offices throughout Pennsylvania.  Overall, we did a good job helping the public adapt to the new procedures.”

In the last weeks of his term, an unexpected issue arose concerning inheritance tax liens.  The PA Department of Revenue changed its guidance on how long it has to collect inheritance taxes.  The new guidance gives Revenue an almost unlimited amount of time to collect liens, and creates great uncertainty in the real estate industry.

“Under the new guidance, people who obtain their properties from public sales don’t know whether Revenue has a lien on the property.  The ROW/OC Association has worked with Revenue, the Pennsylvania Land Title Association and other stakeholders to make sure that property owners aren’t faced with unexpected liens.  Our new procedures accomplish this,” noted Petrille.

 Petrille received a plaque commerating his term, and a medallion for his service as president of the Registers of Wills and Clerks of the Orphans’ Court Association.Looking to the future, Petrille is proud of the work that he did on the implementation of a new Guardian Tracking System in conjunction with Pennsylvania’s judiciary.  GTS will interact with county computer systems to track data regarding incapacitated persons’ financial and physical well-being.  It will also track how well a professional guardian is performing, so a judge can decide whether an agency should continue to be appointed to care for a vulnerable person.  The system will also make sure that guardians are filing mandated annual reports.

“Here in Bucks County, when we took office in 2012, there was less than 20% compliance with the state mandate for guardians to file annual reports.  Now, we have nearly 100% compliance in Bucks County and oversight from our judges.  GTS will allow what we do in Bucks County to be applied statewide, and will give judges across the state access to information they need to make sure all guardians are acting in the best interest of their wards.”

Although he is no longer President of the Registers’ and Clerks’ Association, Petrille will still be busy.  He was appointed by the new president, Virginia Cooper of Huntingdon County, as the Association’s legislative liaison and analyst for a third year.  “I’m looking forward to working with the courts, the General Assembly and the executive branch to work on good policies to simplify estate administration, marriage applications and adoptions throughout the entire state.”

Don Petrille is Bucks County’s Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans’ Court.  He is a past president of the Registers of Wills and Clerks of the Orphans’ Court Association of Pennsylvania, and has served as its legislative liaison since 2016.  He is vice president of the Pennsylvania State Association of Elected County Officials and a member of the Pennsylvania State Archives County Records Committee.  He regularly teaches CLE seminars for the Bucks County Bar Association and the Pennsylvania Bar Institute.  Since 2015, he has been asked by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts to serve on several committees regarding judicial automation, record retention and privacy.  He lives in Bedminster Township with his wife, Andrea, and his two daughters.  Mr. Petrille has been in office since 2012.